This is my assessment of local vocalist and keyboard player Jar-e: He takes the best of what ‘60s-era soul gave to music as we know it (emotion, groove, horns) and adds all these modern touches (hip-hop, Latin, world beat). But listening to his recent Stella Blues show (Friday, Oct. 5) wasn’t like witnessing yet another experiment in genre-fusing. Instead, there’s a sense that this thing has come full circle; that Jar-e’s sound is the culmination of the musical melting pot.
Honestly, I was having a hard time being objective. Some bands evoke the critic in all of us. Jar-e just doesn’t do that for me. “Like his influences that stretch from Manu Chao and Joao Gilberto to Motown greats like Stevie Wonder, Jar-e finds places where lines blur and music is born fresh beyond cliche,” says the artist’s Sonic Bids Electronic Press Kit. I’m good with that. But really, I don’t even care if Jar-e has done his homework (as a press quote from Xpress in the same EPK claims he has). I don’t care whether not he’s plumbed the depths of Motown or vintage Bossa Nova, carving from each ancestral genre a perfect seed from which to cultivate his well rounded sound garden. What I really want in any show — more than the opportunity to wax philosophical about the archaic roots of modern music — is to be entertained and transported to some place at least incrementally more fun than my daily life.
The Stella Blue show was that, absolutely. Jar-e’s stage show is captivating. He wields his voice like a weapon, starting in slow and rather unassuming but quickly escalating into a barely controlled wail, flirting emotively with pitch and not bothering with suave containment or other niceties. That’s a good thing. There are plenty of technically good voices out there, but the memorable vocalists are the Rod Stewarts, Van Morrisons and Willie Mae Thorntons who let it all hang out.
If you missed the Stella Blue show, catch Jar-e’s upcoming performances: Thursday, Nov. 8, at Emerald Lounge (with Angi West), Saturday, Dec. 1, at Westville Pub (with Brian Grosz and Saint Bernadette) and Thursday, Dec. 15, at Bobo Gallery (with Seth Kauffman).
—Alli Marshall, A&E reporter